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 Friday, 10 January, 2003, 14:55 GMT
US 'doves' getting stronger
President Bush with State Secretary Colin Powell (l) and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Pressure is building on Bush to decide what to do
The BBC's Roger Hardy

United States officials say there is no change of policy towards Iraq - despite the declaration by the chief United Nations weapons inspector, Hans Blix, that his team has found no "smoking guns".

But Mr Blix's remarks have heightened uncertainty over what will happen next.

Is a war as early as next month still likely - or will there be a delay?

Chief UN inspector Hans Blix
The hawks distrust Mr Blix
Having handed over the Iraq issue to the UN, can President George W Bush now take it back again?

That, in essence, is the question facing decision-makers in Washington - and the whole issue of war or peace hangs on how they answer it.

The hawks never wanted to go to the UN in the first place.

They distrust the UN. They distrust Mr Blix. They see multilateralism as a form of weakness. Their view of what should happen now is simple.

If Mr Blix continues to find no "smoking guns" and the UN Security Council is reluctant to authorise a war, then America should go to war anyway.

That is still a possible outcome, but it would carry great risks.

High stakes

Although the Americans say it is up to Iraq to prove it does not have illicit weapons, much of the world thinks it is up to America to prove that it does.

Tony Blair, the British prime minister, has said the weapons inspectors should be given more time.

Javier Solana, the European Union foreign-policy chief, has said, "without proof, it would be very difficult to start a war."

In the end, it is Mr Bush who will decide.

The hawks are telling him if he lets the timetable slip, the momentum will be lost - and America's credibility will suffer.

The doves are warning the stakes are so high America cannot go it alone.

As the week draws to a close, it is the doves who seem to have been strengthened.


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10 Jan 03 | Middle East
10 Jan 03 | Politics
09 Jan 03 | Middle East
09 Jan 03 | Middle East
07 Jan 03 | Middle East
06 Jan 03 | Middle East
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